Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Maori Meeting House
Māori Meeting House: Introducing the Whare Whakairo By
Damian Skinner Published
by Te Papa Press - $49.99
are part of New Zealand’s landscape, often glimpsed from country roads, but
also amongst our cityscapes. The Māori meeting house, or whare whakairo, has
been an iconic feature of our country for 170 years, and now we have a
handsome, comprehensive new guide to their history and meaning.
with more than 100 historical and contemporary photographs and original
watercolour illustrations, The Māori
Meeting House: Introducing the Whare Whakairocelebrates
every aspect of these fascinating taonga.
Pākehā art historian and curator, Damian Skinner says he needed all his years
of writing about and researching Māori art to create the book.
an introduction to Māori meeting houses, but it is also an introduction to the
complex history of Māori and Pākehā interactions,” Skinner says.
says different whare whakairo around the country carry the story of a fast
changing world for Māori in the 19th century.
whare whakairo reflects history. You can see the impact of the missionaries on
their art and architecture; the social protests of Te Kooti; the growth in
availability of European made tools, and the movement of Māori into cities
after World War II.
World War II, Māori began moving into the cities in increasing numbers,
bringing the whare whakairo with them. Increasingly, the meeting house became,
as the late Ranginui Walker wrote, refuges. “…The last place where Māori values
governed, where Māori could be themselves...”
history of the whare whakairo is not innocent,” says Skinner. “It’s a story of
loss and grief.”
is told through the whare whakairo. They are a Māori form of architecture and
art, but reflect both Māori and Pākehā relations over the past two centuries.”
can be tricky territory being a Pākehā scholar looking at Māori art, because
curiosity starts to look like a claim to possession and ownership,” Skinner
the book I’m asking what it means for art history to take taonga Māori
seriously. I’d argue that it is art historians, as well as Pākehā who have to
ask some searching questions about what they do, and how they do it, if we are
to really meet the expectations of Māori in twenty first century Aotearoa.
also saying a traditional art historical approach doesn’t always work neatly. A
taonga is not an art work. Trying to work out a path between these two very
different worlds is another reason for writing this book.”
parts history, personal essay and beautifully illustrated guidebook, The Māori Meeting House makes an important contribution to
contemporary discussions about Māori art and art history.
About the author:
Skinner is an art historian, writer and curator. He is interested in the
history of cultural contact between Māori and Pākehā, and the relationship
between art and politics in Aotearoa New Zealand. He has written numerous
books, including The Carver and the
Artist: Māori Art in the Twentieth Century (2008) and The Passing World, The Passage of Life: John Hovell and the Art of
Kōwhaiwhai (2010), which won the New Zealand Post Book Award for
Illustrated Non-fiction in 2011. Damian is currently Curator of Applied Art and
Design at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.